THE HANDMAID’S TALE Season 3 [Blu Review]

A descent into darkness continues, while the fire of rebellion is lit

The first season of The Handmaid’s Tale proved a darkly compelling adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel. The second season continued the descent into darkness, and posed the question, how much more of this bleakness can June (and indeed the audience) endure. It ended with the possibility of escape, only for the protagonist to turn back, for the sake of her daughter, and to face down the evils of Gilead. New on Blu-ray now, you can discover if June made the right choice, or will come to regret not escaping to Canada and a life of socialized healthcare and maple syrup.


The third season of the Emmy®, Golden Globe® and Peabody Award-winning series, The Handmaid’s Tale, is driven by titular handmaid June’s (Elisabeth Moss) resistance to the dystopian regime of Gilead, in which she finds herself once again after opting not to flee to Canada with her baby at the end of the second season. Now, she will struggle to strike back against the regime despite overwhelming odds. This season there are startling reunions, betrayals and a journey to the terrifying heart of Gilead that will force all of the characters to take a stand, guided by one defiant prayer: “Blessed be the fight.” After two intense seasons, the women of Gilead are ready to strike back at the twisted fundamentalist regime that rules Gilead.They’re armed with a plan and will band together to pull off a bold and daring attack.

The presumption is that June’s return to Gilead means more of the same. More misery and peril. The foot stomping down will press even harder, especially with her continued impedance to her captors. And that’s what mostly happens. After all the upheaval, June is put in the home of a new commander, one Joseph Lawrence (Bradley Whitford), who made his debut (and uncertain intentions apparent) in season 2. Fred and Serena Waterford (Joseph Fiennes and Yvonne Strahovski), her previous ‘hosts’, remain in June’s orbit. While elements feel familiar, the all-enveloping grimness of season 2 thankfully gives way slightly with the chinks in the armor of the Gilead regime becoming exposed, and a small but growing band of people looking to break the shackles that bind this society.

The Handmaid’s Tale is hardly escapist TV, with its depiction for the consequences of an authoritarian state coming to power hitting home with recent political and social shifts in this country. One element to come from this is the #Resist movement, which is another facet of the show’s development. An underground network of people pushing back against the state, looking for the best way to achieve their goals, and in the case of June, finding how she can achieve what she wants while also realizing she is personally motivated. And as we learned last season, it’s not always clear who is on which side. The other welcome element is seeing what happens to Emily and baby Nichole, liberated from Gilead, the latter from the Waterfords, at the end of last season. A normal (perhaps even mundane) life north of the border is a remarkable contrast with the rigid, regressive lives of the inhabitants of what used to be the USA. Despite this, much of the season feels like it’s resetting the characters, despite previously being thrown out of their norm by political maneuvering, rebellions, or even a stabbing. Only Serena (more impressive work from Strahovski) seems to show a trajectory in terms of development as she comes to terms with her culpability and contribution to the current state of affairs. As ever, Moss continues to be mesmerizing, channeling so much despair, fury, and determination. The show still looks impressive too, somehow balancing stark and sumptuous. It continues to be adept at providing moments soaked with dread, horrifying iconic imagery, and moments layered with meaning and symbology. But that focus remains, a regressive hammering of this subjugated class, an emotional erosion, by design granted, but one that takes its toll. An endgame is needed, a change to the status quo, one is coming, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

The Package

The release contains all 13 episodes of season 3, spread over 4 discs. The show is largely a grim affair, with some of the settings being resplendent interiors over the more stark greys that dominate. The transfer shows both off well, with good detail and contrast, with some darker moments showing black levels are not as deep as they could be. Some of the colors are a tad drained, with a greenish hue, but more an aesthetic choice than quality issue.

The only extra feature included is Power Play: Gilead’s Women Fight Back, which as the title implies is a look at the various female characters (June and Serena notably), what has happened to them to bring them to their current situation, and the efforts they are undertaking to get what they want. It’s a shame some commentaries or further featurettes on the production aren’t included.

The Bottom Line

The Handmaid’s Tale remains compelling, as well as a show that perhaps shouldn’t be binged, for your own mental health and better appreciation of content. Above all it remains a showcase for the talents of Elisabeth Moss. Season 3 is still rich and potent, but there are enough signs that the showrunners would do the tale a service by pushing toward a conclusion, rather than drawing out the misery for too much longer.

The Handmaid’s Tale Season 3 is available on Blu-ray from November 19th, 2019.

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